United States District Court, D. Nebraska
BRYANT A. GARDNER, Plaintiff,
BURKLEY ENVELOPE COMPANY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Richard G. Kopf Senior United States District Judge
Bryant Gardner (“Plaintiff” or
“Gardner”) filed his Complaint on June 25, 2018.
(Filing No. 1.) He has been given leave to proceed
in forma pauperis. (Filing No. 5.) The court now
conducts an initial review of Plaintiff's Complaint to
determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate under 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). In conducting this initial review,
the court will consider Plaintiff's Amended Complaint
(filing no. 6) as supplemental to the original
Complaint. See NECivR 15.1.
SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT
names Burkley Envelope Company (“Burkley”) as the
sole Defendant in this case. Gardner alleges that he filed a
negligence action against Burkley in the District Court of
Douglas County, Nebraska, on December 8, 2016. The state
district court later granted Burkley's motion to dismiss
Gardner's action based on its determination that the
four-year statute of limitations governing negligence claims
barred Gardner's cause of action and no excuse for
tolling the statute of limitations was alleged. Gardner
alleges the state district court and “the Appeal court
erred in finding that his suit was barred by the statute of
limitations” because “the statute of limitations
did not ‘attach' because he is currently under
disability and remains totally disabled for all practical
purposes.” (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF p. 2;
Filing No. 6 at CM/ECF p. 2.) Gardner now asks this
court to review “the Decision of the Nebraska Supreme
Court, the November 10, 2011 & July 17, 2015 order[, ]
[t]he Decision of the Nebraska Court of Appeals, and the
underline [sic] decision of the district court in this
case” and to “over-turn the decision of the
district court for its abuse of discretion.”
(Filing No. 6 at CM/ECF pp. 1, 7.)
APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS ON INITIAL REVIEW
court is required to review in forma pauperis complaints to
determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The court must dismiss
a complaint or any portion of it that states a frivolous or
malicious claim, that fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §
plaintiffs must set forth enough factual allegations to
“nudge their claims across the line from conceivable
to plausible, ” or “their complaint must be
dismissed.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see also Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“A claim has
facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”).
essential function of a complaint under the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure is to give the opposing party ‘fair
notice of the nature and basis or grounds for a claim, and a
general indication of the type of litigation
involved.'” Topchian v. JPMorgan Chase Bank,
N.A., 760 F.3d 843, 848 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Hopkins v. Saunders, 199 F.3d 968, 973 (8th Cir.
1999)). However, “[a] pro se complaint must be
liberally construed, and pro se litigants are held to a
lesser pleading standard than other parties.”
Topchian, 760 F.3d at 849 (internal quotation marks
and citations omitted).
DISCUSSION OF CLAIMS
expressly seeks review of the judgments of the District Court
of Douglas County, the Nebraska Court of Appeals, and the
Nebraska Supreme Court. This court lacks jurisdiction to
review those judgments under the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine, and Gardner's Complaint must be dismissed.
Rooker-Feldman doctrine prohibits lower federal
courts from exercising appellate review of state court
judgments. Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S.
413, 416 (1923); District of Columbia Court of Appeals v.
Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 482 (1983). Federal district
courts do not have jurisdiction “over challenges to
state-court decisions . . . even if those challenges allege
that the state court's action was
unconstitutional.” Feldman, 460 U.S. at 486.
In short, the “Rooker-Feldman doctrine”
bars this court from correcting or altering a state court
judgment, and no declaratory or injunctive relief is
available in this court to do so. Importantly,
Rooker-Feldman bars “straightforward
appeals” as well as “more indirect attempts by
federal plaintiffs to undermine state court decisions.”
Lemonds v. St. Louis Cnty., 222 F.3d 488, 492 (8th
Cir. 2000), implied overruling on other grounds recognized by
Shelby Cnty. Health Care Corp. v. Southern Farm Bureau
Cas. Ins. Co., 855 F.3d 836, 841 (8th Cir. 2017). Thus,
where a “federal claim succeeds only to the extent that
the state court wrongly decided the issue before it, ”
the claim is barred by Rooker-Feldman because it is
“inextricably intertwined with specific claims already
adjudicated in state court.” Lemonds, 222 F.3d
at 492-93 (internal quotation omitted); see also Gisslen
v. City of Crystal, Minn., 345 F.3d 624, 627 (8th Cir.
2003) (“Where the district court must hold that the
state court was wrong in order to find in favor of the
plaintiff, the issues . . . are inextricably
intertwined.”) (internal quotation omitted).
Gardner seeks appellate review of Nebraska state court
judgments, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars
consideration of Gardner's Complaint. Accordingly, the
court will dismiss this case for lack of subject matter
THEREFORE ORDERED that Plaintiff's Complaint (filing
no. 1) is dismissed without prejudice. The court ...